The Saint of Lost Causes

As we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and the impacts of our mitigation efforts, it’s important to analyze, acknowledge and adjust course as necessary. Important data relating to our efforts is highlighted below, including impacts on our children, mental health, local economy, and the stress on our hospitals due to our efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

Impacts on Our Children

Schools aren’t super spreaders. Child care providers are not at an elevated risk of COVID-19 based on a large study from Yale & The American Academy of Pediatrics. College campuses in Nashville are reopening successfully. Nashville’s private schools are operating in person and have been for months.

Nashville Public Schools have only recently returned Kindergarten through 2nd grade to in-person learning, starting on October 13th. High schoolers aren’t expected back until next year. Our children are being left behind and already disadvantaged communities are struggling.

Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline calls are down 26.7% (-9,743) from March to June compared to 2019, as safer at home orders and school closures went into place.

2019 vs 2020 Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline Numbers

RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the nation, reported that for the first time ever the majority of calls to their National Sexual Assault Hotline were from minors. Of the calls mentioning coronavirus concerns, 75% of these minors were living with their sexual abuser during quarantine.

Our Kids, a Nashville-based free clinic and counseling center for sexually abused children sees nearly 1,000 kids per year. As of their fiscal year ending in June, they’ve seen only 770 (-23%) and they relay a particularly disturbing anecdote:

“offenders are likely spending more time with victims because of social distancing, working from home or unemployment”

“The former DCS supervisor also praises the “out-of-the-box, great critical thinking” of children who have been able to seek help in the pandemic. That includes one girl who used the pretext of needing tech support to go to her Nashville middle school and report her abuser to staff, who notified authorities.”

How many kids didn’t have this out of the box thinking?

Impacts on Mental Health

Drug overdose incidents from March to August in Nashville:

  • EMS calls are up 51% (+1,102)
  • ER visits are up 42% (+394)
  • Fatal overdoses are up 51.8% (+115)
Nashville Drug Overdoses: 2019 vs. 2020 (Note: September is partial data)

The average life years lost of these fatal overdoses is 35 years.

  • The fatal overdose estimated life loss increase in 2020 is 4,025 years.
  • The COVID-19 estimated life loss in Nashville as of October 12th is 2,251 years.

In Tennessee, we’re seeing our biggest jump in all cause mortality within the 25-44 age range in April — August, even though deaths in this age range from COVID-19 are quite low.

34.67% Increase in All Cause Mortality for Ages 25–44
Twitter: @ifihadastick, Source: CDC All Cause Mortality for Tennessee

Stress on Hospitals

The goal of our COVID response was to “flatten the curve” as to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Nashville peaked at 222 hospitalizations on July 22nd which represent:

  • 8% of pre-COVID staffed beds (2,691)
  • 5% of pre-COVID licensed beds (4,149)
  • 4.8% of beds Dr. Jahangir reported (4,600) to the Nashville Post

We would have to hit 3-4 times more COVID patients than our peak to stress normal operating capacity for our hospitals. This doesn’t account for surge capabilities or delaying elective procedures. The Vice President of Strategic Planning for HCA TriStar, David Whelan, says “Hospital capacity hasn’t been an issue in Nashville or Tennessee the entirety of the pandemic.”

David Whelan, VP of Strategic Planning for HCA TriStar

35% of American adults have skipped their regular cancer screenings. Weekly cancer diagnosis dropped nearly 50% for the top six cancers while COVID fears were at their height. The National Cancer Institute estimates nearly 10,000 excess deaths in breast and colorectal cancer over the next decade due to these screening drops.

Impact on Local Economy

The Nashville Chamber Economic Impact study estimates the following:

  • 128,248 lost jobs (12.3% of labor force)
  • $11.2 Billion lost from GDP
  • $8.5 Billion lost from Personal Income
  • $7.7 Billion in Disposable Personal Income
  • Hospitality industry isn’t estimated to recover fully until 2024

As of September 30th, Nashville is the worst of all major metros in the country for Consumer Spending recovery, still down 31%. Other cities include Washington DC (-21.2%), Chicago (-14%), New Orleans (-14.2%) and San Francisco (-13.2%).

Consumer Spending recovery from tracktherecovery.org

According to Yelp, 60% of businesses that have been forced to close temporarily went on to close permanently. Minority owned businesses are shown to struggle the most.

“Black businesses experienced the most acute decline, with a 41% drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32% and Asian business owners dropped by 26%.”

“The number of white-owned small firms, in contrast, fell just 17%.”

Of the $121.1 million Nashville received in federal funding from the CARES Act, only $5.7m has been allocated for small businesses. With $2m earmarked to around 20 music venues, only $2.15m is set aside for over 60,000 businesses ($35.80/business). Given the program is first come, first served with a $10,000 maximum, this much needed help will only make it to a small percentage of businesses and is unlikely to find its way to the ones struggling the most.

As of October 14th, Nashville is at 22.1 cases per 100,000. A gathering limit of 25 is in place (without pre-written city approval) and some of our hardest hit workers and businesses are still faced with restrictions & curfews over relatively few cases.

A confusing mess of emergency orders, telling people to be afraid, and creating uncertainty in jobs and livelihoods isn’t working. Fostering a dichotomy of “stay-at-home do-gooders” and “maligned misanthropes” when the biggest driver of spread is household isn’t working. Without any actual plan that includes an empathetic approach and considers impacts on all public health, we’re simply a vanity project that is failing the least fortunate and most vulnerable. We can’t begin to approach normalcy until we allow ourselves to try.

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Seth Steele

Seth Steele

Software developer that specializes in bad movies, good beer, mediocre music and being frustrated with Tottenham Hotspur.